Category Archives: Stayin’ Alive

Who’s That Girl

IMG_4344Recently in the mirror I started noticing something about my face. Mainly that it wasn’t what it used to be, beauty-wise, and specifically that it looked tired.

At first I thought it was simply a matter of staying up too late binge watching Scandal on Netflix, even though it’s turning into musical beds just like my mom always said Falcon Crest did in 1983.

I started making an effort to go to bed earlier and eat more salmon, but still my face looked the same. Eventually it dawned on me that what I was dealing with was less an issue of fatigue and more an issue of this is what I look like now that I’m almost forty-two.

In the next instant I realized that I was just going to keep on looking more and more tired until eventually one day I would die.

The fact of mortality didn’t alarm me nearly as much as the idea of a permanent double chin. It’s one thing to know that you’re going to get older, another entirely to see it manifest on your face.

I don’t really want to look young forever – that would be weird. One day I would like my appearance to belie the wisdom I hope to have gained within, or at least give me free license to shush people loudly.

Still, the realization that time truly marches on is daunting. Not only because we are vain, but because every new wrinkle removes us farther from the age at which we believed that we could do or be anything we wanted.

Despite having written a blog post about it, I’m not actually that depressed about looking older. I mean, I wish I looked better than I do first thing in the morning, around noon, at dinnertime and also right before bed, but I count myself lucky that I don’t have more pressing concerns.

I guess I’m just sort of surprised that it really happens – that one day you literally wake up and the person you see in the mirror does not match up with the person you percieve yourself to be.

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I Heart Art

I made a little mermaid.

When I was working on my Masters degree in Adult Education, I had to take a class in the Psychology of aging and one of the things that stuck with me most was Erik Erikson’s observation that as humans age, they have an increasing need to create and nurture things that will outlast them. I’m definitely at that stage, and I recognize it not only in my concern for raising my children to be good people, but also in my pressing need to write for posterity and to create things of physical beauty.

A few months ago, I registered for an online fiction writing course through the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Then I forgot all about it and developed an obsession with printmaking, spending all my free time hacking away at linoleum blocks and reading up about different techniques. And I discovered that when I was doing this, I had no need for writing. I started reading books about printmaking and took a renewed interest in the Japanese prints that the P-Dawg’s been collecting. While at the Cleveland Museum of Art last weekend, I found myself studying the themes and composition of the paintings instead of just viewing them from a purely aesthetic standpoint, as I always used to. Now that the online fiction course has finally started, I’m up to my eyeballs in writing assignments and all I want to do is carve linoleum.

What is happening to me?

I’m guessing, “mid-life crisis.” I suddenly feel as though I have no time to waste in trying my hand at all the things that interest me, of which, it turns out, there are many. But with each passing year I fear more that I’m doomed to be a Jack of all trades and master of none. It’s possible that my interest in printmaking is just a phase like so many others before it, but it’s like I said to my mom the other day when we were looking at some photos of the Lithuanian countryside, “I cannot help now but to see the world though the eyes of an artist.”

And my mom was like, “That’s great, but don’t quit your day job.” By which I can only assume she meant sporadic, not-for-profit blogging.

In the age of social media, I’ve noticed that more and more, with each online profile we fill out, we’re required to define ourselves succinctly. I’ve narrowed most of my bios down to “writer,” “wife,” and “mother,” but I still don’t have a published body of work to show for that first moniker. (I did complete my memoir about growing up as the daughter of immigrants stuck between two cultures. I just don’t know if it ever will – or even should be – read by a wide audience.)

And now I’m left wondering if there’s ever a definitive point when a person’s authentic self emerges, or if it’s okay to bluster around for a lifetime searching for it.

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I Should Have Bought a Lottery Ticket

During the few minutes when I worked as an auto insurance claims adjustor, my mentor, Jimmy, mentioned that most accidents happen close to home. Tall, thin and, balding, Jimmy was a company man through and through. His father was a hugely successful policy salesman, and it was Jimmy’s fervent hope that one day, if he played his cards right, he’d follow in the old man’s shoes.

As far as I could tell, Jimmy didn’t do much work. He spent a lot of time leaning back in his office chair and exploring his gum line with a toothpick. Once, during one of our “training sessions,” he excused himself to use the facilities and didn’t come back for an hour and thirty minutes.

“You’d be surprised how many accidents happen in the driveway,” Jimmy instructed me. “Most of the time, it’s the wife backs into the husband,” he drawled, and I took offense.

Not the whole fence, though, because I’d borne witness to this type of situation on a few occasions myself. In fact, just days before accepting the wretched insurance claims position, I’d ripped off the front of my grandfather’s garage while backing out of it. Even though I didn’t much like Jimmy, I never forgot what he said. I vowed never to be the wife who hit her husband’s car in the driveway, and I made good on this promise for over fifteen years.

It happened this afternoon. I was backing out of the garage on a perfectly straight trajectory when the P-Dawg’s car appeared out of nowhere and hit my car’s rear end. Apparently, it had been lying in wait for me all night. The damage was minimal and the P-Dawg was very gracious about it. He’s busted his car up a few times already, so we called it even and I went on my merry way to pick up milk and bread.

That’s where the second car accident happened. I was halfway out of my parking spot at Drug Mart when some dude backed out of his spot and our bumpers kissed. I mean, what are the odds of that happening? I should have bought a lottery ticket.

I can’t stop thinking about the deeper meaning in all of it. The universe is trying to tell me something. But what is it?

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The Hidden Hazards of Housewifery

I hate it when people assume I have it easy as a homemaker. Because just this morning, I got hit by a motorized scooter at the grocery store.

I should have known the little old lady with the tight perm and polyester pant suit was trouble when I saw her weaving in and out of lanes in produce. I should have kept my distance, but I had other things on my mind. Things like, “How can I tell if this eggplant is ripe?” and “Did my son really just put a twist tie in his left nostril?”

It happened while I was in the freezer section. One minute I’m trying to decide between Butter Pecan and Mint Chocolate Chip, the next I’m pinned between the freezer door and my own organic produce and Greek yogurt-laden grocery cart by a limited mobility vehicle.

After she figured out how to remove her foot from the gas pedal, the driver was very apologetic.

“I’m so sorry! Are you okay?” she croaked as I extricated myself from the wreckage. But thanks to an extra layer of abdominal padding I wear as a proud badge of having survived two pregnancies, I was no worse for the wear. I could think of only one thing as scooter lady put her cart into reverse and began navigating a three-point turn: my little son, Jonas. Last I’d seen him, he was standing a few feet away from me and nibbling on a  cookie.

“Watch out!” I warned him.

But he was way ahead of me, and had been spared. “I saw her coming,” he said. This from a kid who normally looks both ways only after he’s darted headlong into traffic.

The grocery store is not the only place where hidden dangers lurk. Many times have I become light-headed after breathing shower cleaner fumes in an unventilated bathroom, and not a day goes by when I’m not impaled by an errant Lego. I’ve pulled my back hefting a fifty pound bag of play sand from my car to the backyard, fallen off the counter whilst trying to change a light bulb, and somehow given my own self an electric shock just by flipping the switch on the garbage disposal. I’ve watched in amazement as things have caught fire inside my oven and once, when the P-Dawg was working late, I had to kill a spider.

Maybe I’m in the wrong profession.

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